Friday, December 28, 2007

Thaksin allies victorious in Thai elections

ALLIES of Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra have declared victory in the Thai elections. The PPP captured 233 of 480 seats in the lower house of parliament to win Sunday’s national election, it was announced. The rival Democrat Party was second with 165 seats, while the Chart Thai Party finished third with 37. The victorious People’s Power Party (PPP) is attempting to attract smaller parties to form a coalition government. Dr Thaksin lives in exile in London and the populist billionaire, ousted in a military coup last year, would face numerous hurdles if he attempts a comeback to political power. Dr Thaksin announced he will “explore options” about returning home in April at the latest. Speaking in Hong Kong, Thaksin said he would not resume a political career but stood ready to advise the PPP, made up of stalwarts from his outlawed Thai Rak Thai party.


There is plenty of in-depth analysis of the Thai elections from The Times, Channel 4, Independent, The Age and BBC, and one issue - or rather person, dominates the outcome - Thaksin Shinawatra.

Essentially, the PPP - formed from the ashes of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai party hold sway in Thailand having secured just short of a majority in the vote. Undoubtedly the presence or influence of Shinawatra was a factor, with the PPP targetting the same voters as Shinawatra did in previous elections.

The biggest question now is probably 'What next?', as to form a government the PPP need to form a coalition with one of the other parties - something which hasn't been too forthcoming in the immediate aftermath of the election.

But whilst we may all hold a pressing desire to know what the political landscape in Thailand now looks like, probably for most City fans the effect this may have on the club and its future is maybe higher on the list of priorities.

It seems that every scenario ranging from he will return to Thailand a hero leaving City in the lurch to his assets will be unfrozen and billions will pour into the coffers in time for the January transfer window, and Thad Williamson raises some of the more pertinent questions in a post, paraphrased below:

1. What will happen to the court cases against Thaksin, which the Democrat Party still wants to see prosecuted in full?

2. Is Thaksin really capable of returning to Thailand and (after the initial splash of publicity) keeping a low profile, refraining from over-obvious political activity?

3. What are Thaksin’s long-term aims? Does he simply want to get his name cleared, his money unfrozen, and his ability to business restored? Is he happy to see out his days as a patron of sport?

4. If he does clear his name and get his money back, will he maintain continued interest in owning Manchester City? (The guess here is yes, for the time being.)

5. Will the investigation into the 2003 war on drugs initiated by the military government proceed under the new government, or simply be pushed to the background?

My gut feeling regarding the situation (and I am by no means knowledgeable regarding Thai politics) is that, like the issues of charges brought against him over the past six months, it will have little overall effect on the club in the short term.

Whilst the situation may now be favourable for a return, he has plenty of enemies still in Thailand and should he have any aspirations to go back in some political capacity, he would be extremely foolish to do so at this stage.

Far more likely is that he will continue with his 'day to day' business of being at the helm of the club, with substantial money undoubedly handed out if Sven so decides between now and the end of January. He has also put in too much time, money and initiatives to simply walk away at this stage - not to mention the impressive start the club has made under his tenure has surely done for his profile.

A high political profile is not likely given the still unstable situation, but a return to the country is likely - but I would have thought initially it will be a well choreographed and stage managed visit at this stage.

I also think the issue the pending charges against him (and his family) will remain 'as is' at the moment, being as it will be a political hot potato and any government formed would open themselves up to accusation should the charges be conventiently tossed aside.

So, as it stands, I don't believe much has changed in the life of Manchester City as far as Thaksin Shinawatra is concerned, but where the club and the country of Thailand are linked going forward is if Thaksin does express a desire to actively get back into political life - here is where the problems would undoubtedly begin.

vote it up!

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